Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Cubs will get worse before they get better

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It didn't take long for the bad to get ugly after Saturday's trade of Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot ushered in the Cubs' efforts for 2011 - not to mention a few more rookies on the roster.

Not to mention ushering out fans by the hundreds - if not thousands -- if Monday's series opening crowd against division-rival Milwaukee is any indication.

It's the obvious, most-immediate risk the Cubs and first-year Ricketts ownership takes in blowing things up now for next year - turning off fans now and turning next April into a prove-it-before-I-come-back proposition.

It certainly can't hurt to get the head start on next year after watching this season disintegrate since that season-opening blowout loss in Atlanta. But it's probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

The Cubs haven't won a game since Monday. They've scored more than two runs only twice since then. And the young pitching staff - which got significantly younger with the trade of Lilly and Monday's DL move of Carlos Silva - is getting scorched.

Most of the damage in Monday's embarrassing 18-1 loss to Milwaukee came against three of the six rookies on the Cubs' staff - including 16 of the franchise-record 26 hits allowed in the game.

And another rookie, Thomas Diamond, makes his major-league debut when he starts tonight against the Brewers.

Acting manager Alan Trammell called some of the cause for Monday's thrashing ``after-effects of going to Coors Field'' - meaning overuse of a bullpen in the thin air during that weekend series which left him short in the pen.

But the way the Cubs' fell behind by seven so quickly on Sunday (before a late comeback) and than so quickly after the third inning Monday (with no comeback), speaks to deeper problems the Cubs face with 56 games left in a season that's fast gaining on last-place Pittsburgh.

The young pitching is the obvious big issue that promises to make for a volatile finish that could easily send Lou Piniella into retirement with his worst non-Tampa Bay record as a manager.

It's why guys like Wells - the second-year starter who had a 1.79 in his last six starts before Monday - have to be especially big for the staff in the wake of the Lilly trade and now Silva's uncertain timetable with his heart issue.

``It's pretty unexplainable,'' Wells said of his start, before dismissing the idea he might have been affected by the trade of Lilly, whom he had called a ``mentor.''

``That's irrelevant,'' he said. ``No question Ted was a favorite of everybody, but when you're out there on the mound you're not thinking about, `Where's Ted?' Or wishing Ted was back. As hard as it is to say Ted's gone, it's time to move on. It comes down to executing pitches.''

Casey Coleman, the third-generation big-league pitcher who made his major-league debut in relief and coughed up six more runs, admitted it was a challenge to go from AAA starter to the relief role Monday in the majors.

``But there's no excuse to come in and give up more [runs],'' he said. ``You've got to be mentally prepared, whether it's your first game or your 1,000th game. I had a chance to pick up the bullpen if I could have pitched three or four innings.''

Now what?

The Cubs have two months left to slog through, with little to play for in the standings and the dreams of getting back to .500 looking crazier by the day (it would take .625 ball the rest of the way).

``You've got to have a short memory in this game,'' catcher Geovany Soto said. ``We've got to just battle through this. We can't mope in a corner.''

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on August 2, 2010 11:54 PM.

Cubs' Silva placed on DL for heart issue was the previous entry in this blog.

Big Z ``dedicated'' as he returns to Cubs rotation is the next entry in this blog.

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